Community Amenities in Vancouver

Liam in his waterpolo cap

I’ve been peripherally involved with the use & planning of Community Amenities in Vancouver for a long time – by being politically involved with the Park Board;as a both a participant and board member for the Vancouver Ultimate League; as a parent of a kid in Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey; as parent of a kid in Vancouver Vipers waterpolo; and as a parent of a kid in Vancouver United FC Soccer. And, there’s a few things (that are probably in some ways obvious, but let us be explicit here) to note about doing all this in Vancouver. Let’s of course be clear that this is all anecdotal based on my experience and limited conversations with other families.

  1. With the exception of my experience as an ultimate player, community sports is heavily weighted towards the periphery of the city: rinks, pools, courts, fields are all generally on the western & eastern edges of the city. If you live in the centre, you’re pretty much guaranteed a fairly lengthy commute. It is sort of the inverse of the home-job principle.
  2. There are not enough playing-surface resources in the city of Vancouver compared to the number of participants. Ultimate, which has the *most* fields, because of the surfaces they’re willing to use, probably has this best. But it is still not enough. In my experience, from least available to most, it is probably: pools, quality fields, rinks, flat(ish) grass surfaces. I don’t know about baseball, but from the outside, it looks like each “area” has a really nice-looking “home” field where stuff happens.
  3. UBC is a terrible community partner. Each association I’ve been part of has been “forced” to use UBC’s fields/rinks/pools because there’s not enough in Vancouver, but each association complains bitterly about how expensive renting UBC’s facilities are. I’m not entirely sure of the justification for this, outside of free-market economics (supply v demand), but it sucks.
  4. The lack of playing surfaces leads to some pretty crazy scheduling decisions by the related associations. In practice, this has meant my elementary-aged kids are doing sports both SUPER early in the am (which generally sucks more for the parents) – as early as 6:15am Sunday in my experience – and also SUPER late at night – as late as 10:30pm Friday in my experience. Perhaps not surprisingly, this leads to some drop-off in participation.
  5. Compared to kids in related associations in the suburbs, Vancouver kids have way less access & time to their chosen sport. At younger ages, this has translated primarily to my being jealous of how little other parents are paying per hour-of-activity. At older ages (let’s say 10+) this tends to translate directly into a lack of competitiveness. In each sport I’ve participated in, as a general rule, suburban teams play at a higher level than Vancouver-based ones. Beyond that, we’ve seen several Vancouver families move their children, if not their actual domicile, out to be part of suburban associations just to give their kids access to higher compete levels.
  6. At an association level, these constraints put incredible pressure on the few paid staff & mostly volunteer organizers. I’ve sat in on several board meetings, AGMs and ad-hoc parent meetings where participants and/or parents complain about fees, ever-reducing availability of activity-time, and so on. And, at the core, the answer is always the same: the association is making awful trade-offs between allowing access to participate vs cost vs scheduling. These are generally pretty committed fans of the activity, and the wear on them shows.

So, what can be done?

Real Estate pricing in Vancouver means we are pretty unlikely to find large tracts of land in the city centre (increasingly, anywhere) to build new pools/rinks/fields. As far as I know, developers are not incentivized to build these sorts of community-centre amenities alongside developments. While I’ve always been a big fan of the existence of our park board, I increasingly wonder if it being distinct from city council really just lets council punt community amenity discussion out of “prime” discussions, to somewhere no one really cares about (if you’re to judge by average number of votes it takes to win a seat come election time).

I don’t have answers, but do have some things I wonder about:

  1. Could/should the city strike some sort of deal with UBC to allow community groups access to UBC facilities at a deal closer to what they pay for city amenities? What if the city bought all the available slots at UBC and then re-apportioned them via the existing city model? I don’t know enough about the political/fiscal relationship between Vancouver & UBC to know how possible that might be. If only from an operational/staffing view, a single purchase-source would be good.
  2. The Park Board’s operational & capital plans are being set for the future. Much like the issue with class-sizes & schools, they strike me as being planned for what’s there now (and not nearly enough), not what is coming in the future, regarding population size. But, I recognize they’re incredibly resource-constrained (both budgetary & physically). I don’t know what the answer is to that, outside of investment from perhaps all 3 levels of government & private enterprise. I’ve been historically averse to having corporate sponsors of community amenities, but if that would, say, double the available pools & rinks and/or cut costs by some significant %, maybe it would be worth it.
  3. Open up school resources more, including private schools, perhaps via the same methods as with UBC. Ontario’s LCBO gets good deals on booze by being (I think) the world’s largest single buyer of alcohol. Why couldn’t the city of Vancouver do that for space on behalf of the residents, and let associations just have one source, at, hopefully, lower costs, rather than various small associations all competing with each other across various sources?

 

Raising an Emotionally-aware child

Kellan Standing Tall

Kellan is most definitely in the throws of The Terrible Threes. I don’t know where this “terrible twos” business came from – because, for both my kids, age two was pretty wonderful. And speaking to other parents, two-year-olds are ok, but three-year-olds are hideous monsters who should all be locked up.

With Liam, I think Leah and I both thought that we were amazing parents because we never had any troubles – I’m not sure he ever had a time-out – maybe one or two, tops. And he was kind, and soft-spoken, and had great concentration. And hey, that’s totally because we’re awesome, right? No. It turns out, like we always thought, that Liam was an exceptional child. Kellan, whom I love dearly, is more like a textbook child. Those monthly “your child at this age” newsletters? yeah, he hits every one of those notes, both good and bad.

And right now, I have to say, is really hard. I’m sure that somewhere in the law is a rule that says murder most foul is completely justified after the 437,000th “why?” of the day, right? And along with the “why”s, there is a lot of yelling, shrieking, crying, laughing, running, babbling, talking, throwing, hitting, hugging, jumping, etc, etc, etc.

And these emotional outbursts are what are troubling me, and I’m not sure what is best to do.

  • I don’t want to teach my child to bottle up his emotions and not share what he’s feeling, BUT
  • I don’t want my child to scream and yell every time he’s angry AND
  • I don’t want my child to sob inconsolably every time he doesn’t get his way BUT
  • I do want my child to express his feelings AND
  • I do want to provide a safe, nurturing space for him to feel this feelings.

So. I do things like say “boys who yell don’t get what they want” and “I can’t understand you when you’re crying like that. Can you tell me with words what you want?” and “are you feeling sad/frustrated/angry/scared/etc?” and so on. And on one hand, I feel like this is good – because I’m trying to teach him to find other avenues to express his emotions, and give him the vocabulary to do this with. But on the other hand, every time I ask him to stop crying or yelling or whatever, or tell him that he doesn’t need to be scared, I worry that I’m just teaching him to be a stereotypical male who bottles up his emotions. And that if I say “dont’ X”, I’m invalidating his experience of feeling X, which, I really don’t want to do because it’s OK that he is feeling X – I just want to teach him to express that feeling more “appropriately”. And I quote that word because, really? more appropriately? Who am I to say what’s a more appropriate way? Because am I ever one of those males who doesn’t express emotion well. I’ve worked SO hard as an adult to be much more in tune with what I’m feeling, and how to express it because I didn’t know how as a child. And I want better for my kids. But…hard.

So, yeah – there’s no resolution to this post – mostly just a voicing of my concerns – putting out into the world what I’m feeling as a way of exploring it. Or, as Kellan might say “WHY is this hard? WHY don’t I know? WHY?”

Rethinking “Workaholism”

Working | Playing

Recently, Lauren wrote a really great piece on “The Balance Matrix” – a struggle many of us share, and something I’ve been working hard on my whole professional life. Reading it made me start to re-examine some of my childhood experience.

My parents were (are now really, despite being at least nominally semi-retired) workaholics – they worked, really, all the time. They got up early, went to work, came home, ate food, went back to work. I went to bed and still they’d work. They worked on weekends. They travelled for work. They worked when they travelled. Both my parents are phenomenally successful, and leaders in their respective fields – but boy did they ever work hard to get there.

At the back of our house was a sort of solarium, the sun room we called it. My dad, mostly, worked there. We had a glass-topped table and he would sit at, idly nibbling at the eraser of a yellow HB pencil or a gently pinching his lower lip between his thumb & fingers. He’d be hunched – either forwards, leaning over the table, or back, his right leg cross over his left. In either case, most of the time there’d be several piles of printed documents – journals, study results, his own data – spread over the table. To one side would be his dictaphone. But his focus was always on a lined yellow pad of paper. He’d furiously write away on that, turn a page. He never seemed to go back – he’d just write. I suspect he was constantly writing in his head prior. When he was satisfied, he’d dictate what he wanted to say and someone in the dictation pool at the hospital would later type it up. In more recent times, of course, much of  this would be replaced by his laptop. But not the yellow-lined pad of paper, nor the alternately leaning hunch.

My mother, by contrast, always hid herself away to work. Once my sister moved out, she took over her room and that became her office where she would while away the night, busy writing, researching, thinking, quietly muttering to herself. As a teenager, many a night would I carefully sneak home in the dead of night only to discover that my mum was still up working. Some of that may have been parental worry about her wayward young son, but she’d be up that late nights I was home too.

What’s curious is that although my father worked in a public spot, his work was much more mysterious to me than Mum’s – she would think out loud, talk about her work with us all – I suspect as much to help formulate her own thoughts as to share – while Dad was simply quietly efficient, back there in the sun room.

I swore, as I got older, that I would never be like them. I hated that they always worked, and I thought it a terrible life that I wanted nothing to do with. I loved the idea of indolent evenings spent with my family playing, sharing, living.

But a fun thing happened on the way to the coliseum….

I discovered that I have incredible work ethic – like my parents. I discovered that I too prefer to work in long, straight, deeply-focussed bouts – like my parents. I discovered that I too have immense ambition and drive to succeed – like my parents. I discovered that I too love what I do, and it’s not really work when you love it that much – like my parents.

But I still, even when I want to – try really hard to not bring work home, to not work evenings, to stop and truly experience my own children’s youth. And so I don’t work at home in the evenings. Liam, now in grade 3, is starting to have regular homework – somewhere between 30 & 60 minutes worth 3 days a week. And you know what? it’s a struggle to get him to do it. My sister, who shares many work traits with myself and my parents, doesn’t work at home either. And you know what? it’s a struggle for her to get her kids to do their homework. But, despite all my slacker tendencies at school (sat at the back, never took notes, etc), I always did my homework. It’s just what we did at home – we did our work.

And so, now, I look back at my parents long work hours and don’t just see workaholics chained to their desks. I see amazing parents who not only wanted to succeed, but wanted their children to succeed and modelled how to manage time, how to prioritize work – and most importantly, how to work. I see parents who showed their children how to have a career you love and children you love and work hard at both.

I don’t want to struggle to convince Liam to do his homework and whether he needs to do it – homework’s one of those stupid things that you have to do. But how fair is it, in his eyes, that he has to come home from a long, hard day at school and then do more work when both his parents are sitting on the couch, relaxing? He has no model to indicate that working at home is a normal part of life. And while yeah, I wish schools didn’t give homework and I doubt the utility of it, it happens. And so now, as we embark on this 8+year journey of nightly homework, I think back to how well my parents modelled getting stuff done at home and begin to think they weren’t, perhaps, just insane workaholics.

Perhaps, just maybe, they were teaching me something. And I could teach my children that too. And so, when my kids have homework, maybe I should have homework too. I’m a small business owner. There’s no shortage of things to do. I don’t want to spend my evening doing them, but then, Liam doesn’t want to spend his evening doing homework either. So maybe we should treat this as something of a team sport. We’re all in this together.

Miscellany: what’s up lately

Peekaboo Daddy!
Peekaboo Daddy!

I’ve been quiet around here of late, for a few reasons, only some of which are because I started to dick around with the design of the site, then got busy and so stopped and so now it sits in limbo, not yet finished. But some fun things from home:

  • Liam, who is dreaming of being a grown up, while everyday become more grown in my eyes as he plays chess and researches strategies and helps out with Kellan and generally shows signs of being a very interesting, if damnably distractable boy.
  • Liam recently wanted to be a detective when he grew up, and so magnifying glasses and forensic kits and books about detecting were bought, karate was taken, and everything we encountered was a clue to solving something else. It was a wonderful time that leant well to our mutual tendency to be lost in our heads dreaming of alternate futures.
  • Currently, Liam wants to be a bicycle-accessory inventor. He has described in such detail that I could never capture it his future shop, on Broadway, wherein the front of the shop people will buy bicycles and the accessories that he has made, such as an automatic rain-cover that detects the rain and creates mudflaps and booties for your feet; while in the back he and his team will work, in the open, so that everyone can see the craft that goes into his work
  • Craft & artisanship are a common theme with Liam. He’s very interested in the methods by which things are made, and cared for, and the seemingly inherent artistic-ness of watching something be made. He loves YouTube how-to videos, and he’s dead into arts & crafts and crafting, and dreaming of how things are made: not at a large-scale industrial way that you see on DiscoveryTV, but Brooklyn-hipster style, small-scale, hand-crafted. It is unfortunate that neither Leah nor I are crafty, at all, and I wish I knew of ways to let him explore this more. I wonder if I could get him involved in VanHackSpace, or carpentry camps, or cooking, or gardening in a way that is beyond my ken.
  • Kellan, in the last few days, has started addressing me as ‘Dadda/Daddy’ to get my attention, not just as a sound in the middle of a river of sounds. He’ll say DaddaDaddaDaddaDadda in the car, and when I look back, he’ll grin and  squawk “hi!”. He’s been pretty sick lately, and I’m so happy to have my crazy-non-stop-on-the-go-little-guy back again.

 

To Kellan, On Occasion of your First Birthday

Dear Kellan,

Kellan, a few minutes old
When you were just a few minutes old

Shortly after your brother was born, I wrote his birth story – but I haven’t written much about yours. Your arrival was … unexpected: It was the day after your Mamma’s last day of work – she was taking the last month of her pregnancy off to enjoy herself  and prepare us for your arrival, a good five weeks before your supposed birthday. Your Mamma and I were out on a date to celebrate her last day. Liam was staying over at his friend Luke’s place. We had a really nice dinner at l’Abattoir, then came home. In the middle of the night, Your Mamma woke me  up because her water had broken – this was very unexpected because you weren’t due for another 5 weeks or so. On the flip-side, you couldn’t have picked a better night: Liam was taken care of so we didn’t have to wake him up to go to the hospital.

We went to St. Paul’s hospital, where your Mamma works, and then waited. And waited. The doctors decided to induce labour, as it wasn’t starting on its own. But the first time they hooked up the IV, it wasn’t working, so none of the drugs were actually being used, which caused some additional delay – by this time it was coming to be mid-day on May 14th, many, many hours after we first arrived. Finally, they fixed the IV, and labour began. It only took a couple of hours until you arrived:

We were very excited to meet you – but it was clear that you were having troubles breathing. Mamma, after a few quick cuddles with you, handed you to the nurses and you were whisked away to the NICU. You had it extra good because that’s where your Mamma works, so everyone knew her, and knew how to take really good care of you. The St. Paul’s NICU is a good place, but they didn’t have all the stuff you needed to help you breathe, and so after a few days, you were taken to the Children’s Hospital NICU.

Peeking out

There, you lived in an incubator for the next 12 days. Mamma spent virtually all day, every day with you. Your Nanna came out to meet you and help us get your brother to & from school. I came to visit after work every day. This was, I’m not kidding you, a really hard time. You seemed to be slowly getting better, but it was hard to tell and you were just so little, surrounded by such big, loud machines.

But your Mamma was a great advocate with you, and knew just what to ask for and when to push, so you got great care. And because your Mamma is literally a pro at taking care of little babies, you came home much earlier than you probably would have if you had different parents.

Much like when Liam was born, we weren’t fully prepared for your arrival – there was still lots of things to get and do and whatnot. But we were so happy you were home. You were so very, very tiny. And those first few months at home you were very very difficult. You weren’t a big fan of sleeping, and you were so tiny that you had trouble eating. I had taken to calling you some pretty unflattering nicknames in private because it was sometimes so hard. You would cry and cry and cry and we didn’t know why. We tried everything. I would hold you and rock you in my arms and sing every song I knew to get you to go to sleep. And your Mama, she deserves a medal because during the week, when I had to work, she tried so hard to let me sleep so that I could get up and go to work. Then on the weekends I’d try to let her sleep. But you know what Kellan? I think I failed more often than not at first. You were so different from your brother even then.

Then one day, things got a lot better. I’m not sure when, exactly, or how old you were – I think you were about 5 months (4 months, adjusted) when you started sleeping “through the night” (by which I mean you slept for more than 2-3 hours at a time). And napping. And generally being a much happier camper. And you started growing, and growing and growing. We went from being worried about how small you were to worried that you were too big! You had your first halloween. We dressed you as a little dragon, but you didn’t seem too impressed:

Our Sad Little Dragon
Our Sad Little Dragon

And then there was the helmet. Because you came so early, and spent so much time hooked up to machines, your head was a little misshapen. Not grotesque-gargoyle misshapen (although I did like to call you my little gargoyle), but enough that we decided to get you a helmet to help correct this. There was much deliberation about it, weighing the pros and cons. And then it came, and you wore it fore about 2 months until we couldn’t take it anymore: your head was so vastly better than before, it that short time; it made you so unhappy; and worse, there didn’t seem to be any real science backing the use of the helmet, or any long-term studies about potential side-effects.

Kellan in his helmet
You, wearing your head-shaping helmet

Since December, you’ve been growing like mad. Now at a year old, you’re happily crawling about in clothes labelled for 18months & 24-months: you’re big! And you’re happy. You love the cats, particularly Twitch, who is infinitely patient with you because you love to chase him and pet him and climb all over him:

Kellan Loves Twitch
You love the kitty so much!

What I think I love most about getting to know you is seeing just different you are from your older brother, and such a wonderful little boy all your own. Your eyes, which likely haven’t settled on a colour yet, seem to be headed into the hazel/green/grey palate, much like your Mamma’s, unlike Liam’s whose were as blue as the sky from day one. You’re not quick to smile or laugh, but when you do, they’re great big smiles and huge belly laughs. You are a baby on a mission! Sitting still and carefully examining things is for chumps! You learned to crawl for a reason and you like to crawl a lot. I suspect that one day, very soon, when you figure this whole walking thing out, it’ll be even more crazy trying to keep up with you. Your love your big brother and just want to follow him wherever he is. Fortunately, you have an amazing older brother who loves to play with you, and will look out for you. You are loud! You like to talk, a lot, and tell us in no uncertain terms when you’re unhappy. At home this is ok. But, little bear, you need to learn to travel better. See, we love to travel. And we got spoiled by Liam who was a great traveller from day one. But plane rides with you are much less fun so far. Because you can’t crawl wherever you like on a plane and darn it you just want to move! But we’ve still been places. You’ve been to LA already.

You, your big brother & your Dad in LA
You, your big brother & your Dad in LA

My first year with you has been so amazing, little bear! I can’t wait for us all to discover what comes next.

Parenting: Rewarding Recycling

Liam is a big fan of recycling. He also has a pretty good idea of what kinds of items are returnable vs recyclable in the blue bin. At home, we have 2 bins: 1 where we collect everything that has a deposit attached to it, and is thus returnable, and the standard blue bin for everything else.

About once every 6-8 weeks, when we’ve got enough returnables, Liam and I load up the car with shopping bags full of tetra-paks, booze-bottles, pop bottles & cans, and head down to our nearest return-it depot to return all our stuff. On the way there, we get to hang out, talk about whatever (this is always a dad-and-Liam trip). Once there, Liam helps me separate all the returnables as directed by the staff there. Now that he can do math, we’ve added an extra step: We add up how much money we’re going to get before the staff does the math for us. It’s amazing how good Liam is at adding things by $0.05 & $0.10 these days, and keeping the numbers in his head these days – and useful shorthand knowledge that there are 4 quarters in a dollar, 20 nickels, etc – so he’ll now do things like count 1-20 in nickels, and know that equals a dollar.

The best part then comes when the staff gives us the money: We go shopping. Generally we’ve earned $5-10. Which is the perfect amount of money to then go to the toy store and buy a small toy. Liam puts the money in his pocket and as we drive over to the toy store we talk about what sort of a toy he wants to buy, why, and best of all, what we’re going to do with it when we get home.

At the store, Liam carefully goes around  choosing a toy that costs less (pre-tax) than what he got from the recycling. At the cash, Liam pays – he figures out which bills & coins to give the cashier (if tax brings the total over, I always cover that). His clear pride at being able to spend his own money, that he earned and counted is awesome. The surprise and genuinely happy response from the cashiers watching my kid do all this himself is pretty great too. Only once have I ever had a curmudgeonly cashier ask if I could “hurry this up”.

So are our trip net-green? Probably not. All the gas used, and packaging on the toy aren’t so great. But I now have a 6-year-old who can already separate returnables from recyclables, is jazzed about recycling, can do all sorts of useful coin-and-bill math and at the least the beginnings of an understanding of the relative worth of things, not to mention a great couple of hours where we get to hang out, just him and I. It’s all win.

Parenting & the ephemerality of possession

I struggle mightily with materialism. On one hand, I am an inveterate early-adopter gadget-hound. I want the latest, greatest, shiniest toy. On the other hand, I hate buying things. At some level I don’t even particularly like owning things. I’m all over eBooks for the same reason I very quickly embraced digital music (once I figured out I didn’t have to rip at 128k) – it reduces physical clutter, but allows me to still partake in a passion – discovering new music, new books.

aside: I’m not yet down with physical media-less video simply because the quality of a Blu-ray disc generally FAR exceeds anything I get online – sound, video, extra features. Give me all that in a digital-only download & I’ll switch in a heartbeat. Until then, I’ll keep renting & buying the physical media.

And so of course imparting this sort of internal struggle to Liam is important to me. I want him to cherish his possessions, recognize the value of them and derive happiness from receiving and interacting with them. At the same time, I don’t want to raise a hopeless materialist who only derives happiness from buying new things, and always wants new things. And I want him to understand how liberating and joyful it can be to get rid of possessions. I know some of this is just being a child, but a small part of me gets really unhappy that Liam looks longingly at the dollar toy-in-an-egg machines, that he’ll choose a kinder egg over other candy because it comes with a toy every time. And that if and when we get these toys, he’ll play with them for a little while – sometimes an hour, sometimes a day, and then they’re tossed in a toy-bucket never to be played with again. I feel very much to blame because we have been willing to buy him things if he asks for them.

aside #2: Liam has this thing which drives both Leah and I nuts where he’s incredibly passive about things and won’t come out and ask for them. He’ll say things like “I was thinking about a kinder egg” when what he means is “I would like a kinder egg”. It drives me up the wall. I’ve now taken to being flippant (if I’m in a good mood) or sarcastic (if not so much) in response to this. Liam doesn’t deal very well with rejection, it must be said, so I suspect that this is his defense mechanism – he’s not as disappointed if what he’s thinking about doesn’t happen compared to if what he’s asking for doesn’t happen.

So we’re working on the idea that a)we don’t buy everything we want just because we want it (about which I do admit to feeling quite hypocritical) b)that we cherish and value the things we have and take care of our possessions c)it’s a good thing to share with our friends and not be too possessive. So these are somewhat contradictory ideas that really, for the most part, Liam seems to be getting. I think. I’m not sure. He certainly gets the idea of delayed gratification, which is great. But I admit that we’re struggling with this and I do worry that I’m raising a materialist who always wants more stuff, regardless of if he actually wants the item, or just wants to satisfy the act of wanting….

Bleh. This post kind of went off in a different direction than I’d intended. Oh well.

Learning how to make Mistakes

Liam is a very cautious, meticulous child. Bright, but very sensitive. He’s, probably as a result, incredibly hard on himself. He internalizes everything. This has some interesting effects. For instance, Liam is not very good with change. Most kids aren’t of course, but with Liam, a sudden change in plans seems to mean, to him, that he did something wrong, it’s his fault. Suddenly decide to go to Costco before Safeway, rather than the other way around as originally discussed? Out will come the big, trembling lower lip, the downcast eyes, the fidgety fingers. It’s taken me a long time (really, until just recently) to realize that the reason for why he gets upset like this when faced with an unexpected change is that Liam believes he has made a mistake and is likely castigating himself, causing him to be so upset. It has been hard to piece out because Liam would never want to tell us what he was so upset about – in part, I believe, because he would then be upset about how he was over-reacting, so was now upset about being upset.

The clue, for me, came just recently when I finally got him to tell me that he was sorry that he didn’t put his shoes on when I asked him to. In his mind, apparently, the reason I was going to Costco before Safeway was because he took too long to put on his shoes, so for some reason that meant Safeway had to be after Costco (he likes Safeway because often shopping there entails him getting a treat, like a piece of a KitKat bar). So I turned off the radio and explained to him that the reason I was going to Costco first was that we needed to buy groceries from Safeway that had to remain cold – milk & ice cream, and that if we went to Safeway first, they might melt, but if we did it the other way around, they wouldn’t.  Then I explained about how cold things left in the car warm up, and getting warm is what causes the ice cream to melt. And I told him that it didn’t matter that he took a few minutes to put his shoes on – it wasn’t why we were doing things differently.

It may come as a surprise to many, but Liam has never had a tantrum. He’s never yelled “NO!” at us, or fallen down screaming and writhing. It just has never happened. I suspect this is because he internalizes things. Probably much like myself as a child (Leah might say as an adult), he doesn’t really understand how to properly experience anger, and often experiences anger as sadness or a weird longing for comfort (here I’m obviously projecting based on my memories of me as a child). And ends up blaming himself for whatever he should have been angry at.

At Daycare, most of the teachers tell us what a wonderful child Liam is – so friendly, never getting into trouble – but he cries a fair bit, and doesn’t deal well with criticism. This is true – because he’s incredibly hard on himself. When he makes a mistake, it’s the end of the world for him, and the standard “don’t worry about it” response that we as adults use to indicate that it’s not a big deal simply doesn’t work for Liam. I had suggested a couple of weeks ago to one of his teachers than when he gets upset because he’s done something wrong to, rather than say “it’s ok Liam”, to say “It’s not a big deal, we all make little mistakes. Do you remember when…” and tell Liam of when they made a mistake, and make light of that. Liam does really well when there’s an explanation for something, a solid reason for things. Today, a teacher at his school let me know that this seemed to have helped. Additionally, letting Liam help when other kids make mistakes – ask him what the other kid did wrong and whether he thought it was a big mistake or a little mistake was having nice results – Liam was starting to “try” things that he might get wrong. He was beginning to risk making mistakes. The very upset Liam when he was called out it was still there, but slowly but surely, Liam is starting to take some risks that might not work out for him. We laughed at the idea that a teacher at Daycare was teaching my son how to “act out”, but that’s essentially what we’re doing.

I suspect, much like the little clone of me that he often appears to be, that socially-expected reactions will be a challenge for a long time for him. Fortunately, Liam doesn’t appear to suffer from the same shyness that I did, and is quite popular at school – when I drop Liam off, kids make a point of coming up to him to say “hi”, and we hear from his teachers that virtually all the kids like playing with him, and invite him to play with them throughout the day. Hopefully he’ll be learn ways of not taking everything quite so personally. Or, if not that, learn some productive ways of processing that self-directed anger.

Parenting is hard.

Liam’s Story: The Big Little Tiny Old Woman & the Whale

This isn’t turning into a daddyblog, I promise! That being said, I do want to share with you all a story that Liam told to me last night:

Once upon a time there a big little old tiny woman. She went outside to play with her sand toys but there was lots of snow and she couldn’t see the sand and she had to shovel the snow. There was a whale in the snow. The whale ate the big little old tiny woman. The end.

Given how many of these stories I get from Liam, I’m guessing parents of other toddlers hear them too. It might make for a fun interactive-internet project: parents post stories that their young ones tell to them (as text or audio or video). Illustrators/designers/photographers take those stories and illustrate them. No idea how it would work, but that seems like the sort of thing the internet is great for. Anyone know if such a thing exists? Or want to collaborate on building such a site?

the 4:45 AM emergency

Liam usually sleeps through the night – he has for a very long time. We’re really quite lucky, really – in fact, I often have to wake him up at 7:30, 8 AM in order to get him to school and myself to work on time. The exception has been if he had to go to the bathroom, but just in the last couple of weeks, he’s even figured out how to do that by himself at night (although, humorously, he simply cannot seem to figure out how to close his bedroom door – he either slams it shut, somehow jamming it so it’s super hard to open again, or it just doesn’t shut at all).

But last night, I awoke, adrenaline pumping, to the sound of Liam screaming my name, sobbing unconsolably. I rushed out of bed to his room, expecting – expecting I don’t know what – mostly that he’d injured himself, or had an accident, or fallen out of bed. But I certainly did not expect what the cause of his distress was. Liam takes a different toy to bed every night. One of his favourites is a “Mack” truck (from the movie Cars). The emergency at 4:45 this morning? He’d woken up, and the cab of the toy had become separated from the trailer (it is supposed to be able to do this), and he couldn’t get it to fit back together properly. I really didn’t know whether to laugh or get angry, but, given how intensely unhappy he was, the answer was neither – I put Mack back together, gave Liam a hug until he calmed down again, then went back to bed.